Douwe Osinga's Blog: Google Lock-Up

Sunday, October 10, 2004

I don’t like alarm systems much. Forget to turn them off once and before you know it some pseudo-police guy with a fake (or not) gun will show up and make you prove you are in fact not a burglar. The one at the Google office in Zurich is very strict. Leave the door open for more than 45 seconds or so and you have to go through a complex procedure to avoid the coming of said pseudo-police guy. Last night, however, leaving the door open wasn’t the problem. More the reverse.


The door wouldn’t open at all. We had gotten in fine, worked for a bit, but now we were locked in. We fumbled a bit with the lock, entered codes into the alarm terminal, but nothing helped. Getting in had worked, but holding the badge close to the badge reader through the window didn’t. Called the corporate apartment. A Google-badge carrying colleague answered and was easily persuaded to come rescue us. However, the door would still not open. It did click a bit, but that was all.


More fumbling and the sudden realization that the reason the door didn’t open was in fact that it was locked from the inside! Unlock the door, click, click and the door opened. Sweet freedom. How could we have locked the door and not noticed, how stupid. Well as it turns out we were not that stupid. We had only locked the door during the fumbling with the door face of our escape attempt. By the time we realized this, the colleague was already on the wrong side of the door and also locked in.


Having run out of near by colleagues we called the security people. They didn’t know what to do, but offered to come by. We politely declined, since they usually charge triple overtime plus weekend bonus for things like this. The largish emergency exit button began to look more juicy all the time, so we finally pressed it. No alarm went off, just a dry click and the door was free again. Hooray!


The alarm did go off when we opened the door, however. And the door no longer locked itself. Bit of a pickle. Leaving an the door open with a running alarm was clearly not an option. Calling in the uniforms was all that was left, though they couldn’t do more than stare at the door mumbling something that this was a job a technician. Technicians we have a lot at Google of course, but none that know much about real stuff, more about network protocols and data storage schemes.


Ten minutes later our secretary showed up with knowledge about two important keys. One to reset the emergency exit alarm and one to lock the door from the outside (the same lock we managed to lock from the inside before). Panic struck for a few seconds when we realized that now that we had reset the emergency exit alarm, the door was shut again, this time with everybody on the wrong side, including the secretary and the man in the uniform, but fortunately the emergency exit button worked again, so an exit was still possible.


I leave as a question to the reader what we ended up doing with our collection of alarms, keys and badges, so that people could still have a chance to come into work the next day (Sunday) without being trapped in the same way, nor that the alarm would keep going off or the door being unprotected. Hint: it involves somebody being on call.


Unknown said...

Doors keep you out? Pls remember the Toll Free number (800) 707-0432 in case of emergency. It is supported by